A single human hair is the width of 60,000 of these motors.
Researchers at Tufts University in Massachusetts announced on Sunday that they had created an electric motor the size of a single molecule. This is a major breakthrough, as previous molecular motors were powered chemically or by light, not electrically, and it was impossible to control just one molecule without affecting others around it.
Now, We can use electricity to drive one molecule and the one sitting right next to it, say two nanometers away, remains off, Charles Sykes, an associate chemistry professor at Tufts and one of the scientists involved with the project, told MSNBC.
He and the other researchers used a scanning tunneling microscope, which uses electrons rather than light. They used the tip of the microscope to send an electrical current through a simple molecule -- butyl methyl sulfide, which gives brandy its distinctive smell -- that was placed on a copper surface ... which directs the molecule to rotate one way or another, MSNBC reported.
The practical applicability of the discovery remains very limited, because they got the motor to work at 5 degrees Kelvin, or -450 degrees Fahrenheit. Sykes said it could take decades to get it to work in a warmer environment, but he was confident it would be possible eventually.
Once the motor can be replicated at normal temperatures, it could be used to pursue further breakthroughs in nanotechnology and medicine, such as developing a mechanism to deliver drugs to very specific parts of the body, the BBC reported.
Until then, Sykes and his colleagues will have at least one concrete measure of their accomplishment: a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for creating the smallest motor ever.